May 20, 2008
Mike Gotch loved the beach and
the desert, and he spent much of his professional and personal
time advocating for environmental causes.
hard-working Democrat with movie-star looks, the former San
Diego city councilman and state assemblyman loved the outdoors
and relished his role in government.
At age 32 in 1979, Mr. Gotch set a record for winning a San
Diego council seat with the slimmest of margins. Four years
later he set another record, capturing 87 percent of the vote to
Mr. Gotch died Sunday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La
Jolla after a struggle with skin cancer. He was 60.
He received praise and criticism throughout his career in
public service for his efforts on beach-related issues.
He was committed to his community, said his brother, Steve.
“He would sweep the entire sidewalk from his house to the
beach,” he said.
Mr. Gotch represented the Council District 6 from 1979 to
1987. He left to work on former Sen. Gary Hart's short-lived
presidential campaign before returning to run for a beach-area
Assembly district. He served two terms from 1990 to 1994.
On the council and in the Assembly, he represented an area
that included Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
He supported managed growth and worked to open access to
Mission Bay by pushing a plan to create a connecting walkway
from Mission Beach to Crown Point.
“He really was passionate about his community and about
allowing the public access to enjoy the bay and the beaches,”
said former aide Mikel Haas, a San Diego County official who was
Evonne Schulze was Mr. Gotch's chief of staff at City Hall
and in the Assembly. “He wasn't one to do things because they
got him re-elected. He did things because he believed in them,”
One project that sparked criticism while he was on the
council was Mr. Gotch's support for the Belmont Park
redevelopment in Mission Beach. Critics said he used his
influence to help grant development rights to the husband of his
“It was a mess down there. . . . There were drugs, gangs,
buildings that were falling apart,” Schulze said. “Mike felt it
was important to give the boardwalk back to the community.”
In a 2004 interview, Mr. Gotch said he thought turning the
park over to a private developer was the only way to save the
historic Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Plunge.
After serving on the council, Mr. Gotch was appointed to the
Stadium Authority Board from 1988 to 1990. He was credited with
creating designated smoking areas at Jack Murphy Stadium and
with getting diaper-changing tables installed in the men's
He resigned from the board after winning a seat in the
Assembly. Mr. Gotch lost a special election for an Assembly seat
in June 1990, but defeated the short-term incumbent in the 78th
District a few months later.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe, who worked briefly in his
district Assembly office, called him an early environmentalist.
After the Assembly, Mr. Gotch unofficially continued his
service to San Diego as legislative secretary to then-Gov. Gray
Davis and was invaluable to local lawmakers, Kehoe said. Mr.
Gotch, who served in the position from 1999 to 2003, acted as a
liaison between Davis and the Legislature.
Kehoe said he helped efforts to establish the San Diego River
Mr. Gotch resigned the position, reportedly after a heated
exchange with Davis' chief of staff at the time, Lynne Schenk.
Mr. Gotch was born Oct. 4, 1947, in San Francisco. He earned
a bachelor's degree in public administration from SDSU.
Friend and college roommate Mike Hickok said Mr. Gotch's
affinity for public service started in college when he learned
of a redistricting issue that he believed gave then-county
Supervisor Jack Walsh “a raw deal.”
Mr. Gotch went on to serve as president of the Mission Beach
Town Council. Before his two terms on the City Council, he was
executive director of San Diego's Local Agency Formation
Mr. Gotch married his third wife, Janet, in 1988. They bought
a home in Yountville in the Napa Valley while he was
representing San Diego in the Assembly, prompting criticism. In
1993, he announced he would not seek re-election for a third
Assembly term because he wanted to spend more time with his
In recent years, he and his wife separated. She remained in
Yountville, and he moved to Borrego Springs.
Mr. Gotch loved Borrego Springs and was involved in the
community, said his companion, Bridget Asaro Myhro. He was a
board member of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce and the
Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute.
“He saw Borrego as a refuge, a peaceful place,” said Haas,
the San Diego County official. “He used to say that when he got
to the other side of the mountains, he could feel the peaceful
effect on him.”
Mr. Gotch is survived by his wife, Janet; his father, Howard,
of Arizona; brothers, Jeff of Napa and Steve of Glendora;
sister, Deborah of Pauma Valley; and Myhro.
The family requests donations to the Anza-Borrego Foundation
and Institute or San Diego Hospice. Services are pending.
A celebration of his life is being planned for this summer.